Building a Larger Table & Higher Fence

I felt this… but things have changed a bit

I remember posting the “Build a larger table, not a higher fence” themed memes/stickers a lot when I was a fresh faced/wide eyed early adopter in the social media space. That was well over a decade ago, and nothing on earth could have convinced me then that I’d ever be divorced from Steve and striking out on a totally new trajectory and career as a farmer and eco-retreat host alongside a new partner. Then I was completely new to the foreign concept of surplus resource as I’d lived so long as a student or toiling to pay rent and bills like everyone else my age. The stellar success of Serato and now ChargeNet has been a double edged sword in as much as I’m in the unique position that I can actually choose to spend my time and energy on nearly anything I want. Of course that means I want to do something meaningful and important for our society and the planet. The downside? There’s far too many projects and possibilities in the “do something good” pallet I am currently able to paint with. Pretty confident there’s nothing I would rather be doing, nor anyone I’d rather be doing it with though, and that’s brought about a peace and sense of purpose I am grateful for every single day. We still have the odd absolute stinker of a day or dealing from time to time, but mostly, it’s been magic.

So yup, it turns out I clearly function best as a couple, like those cute little binary beings from TNG.

I really couldn’t imagine a better companion, collaborator, cohort or consort than Damon James Birchfield. His almost obsessive passion for detail, governance, form and functionality; combined with my boundless enthusiasm and obsessive need to connect people and weave compelling and accessible narratives have seen this project find feet, a soul and have a life force breathed into it. It’s an honour to be involved, and a privilege to be working alongside so much amazing and skilled local talent. Starting an experimental farm is a great way to get to meet your neighbours and local businesses. Highly recommend. Would reboot my entire lifepath, trajectory and career again without giving it a second thought now that I’m through the nightmare of getting here.

Damon Practicing his skills with the camera

While we have been in mostly splendid isolation, and many of our contractors and invited guests have worked on or studied the farm and whenua on their own terms and in their own time, we’ve been honoured to show our gratitude by providing socially distanced lunches, afternoon teas and picnics. I like feeding people. Always have. Food is joy and I am indeed a huge and loyal fan of joy.

As the strictest of the lockdown conditions begins to wane, we already have four outdoor BBQ/social events this week and a full calendar all the way through well into the new year.  I am strangely terrified and overwhelmed, but also incredibly excited to be face to face with people I admire, respect and definitely enjoy spending time with.  Bring it on.

Since the move to level three for Auckland, while many people were separated by the borders from their friends/family/farms/baches/holiday homes, we were lucky enough to commute up to our farm on weeks the kids were with our exes.  Just gotta take a minute to say:  full ups to my ex, he’s a great dad and a wonderful friend, it has been a pleasure consciously uncoupling!  Our scheduled freedom from child rearing and having our home and farm clearly and completely within the greater Auckland border has allowed us to continue working and watch the farm evolving into an incredibly exciting and fulfilling project.  The fact all the work happens outdoors and social distancing requires little to no effort when you’re meandering around 50 acres of bush block, has meant we have had safe socially distanced laughter and conversation with contractors and colleagues, and the added satisfaction of seeing the project improving before our eyes, and building momentum on and off-line.  

Just like many other tourism operators, we lost three month’s of bookings because of the lockdown. It’s only recently we’ve opened up to host guests who are able to check in contactless and be in splendid isolation at the end of a dirt road with only their bubble in tow. The relaxing of the rules will allow families and friend groups to arrive at the treehouse and enjoy some off-grid magic after being cooped up for our longest and strongest ever lockdown in Tamaki Makaurau. We are booked nearly solid and inquiries continue to roll in which will keep us on our toes for the next few months and more than make up for the loss of income. We did not seek government subsidies, as we are so early into the narrative as a start-up and just finding our feet, so it seemed selfish and unnecessary for us to seek compensation for what is at this point a passion project, but will absolutely evolve into a fully-fledged and self-sufficient social enterprise. I like that blogging is at times a form of manifesting… I really do see this being a beautiful and inspiring situation, experienced and embraced by a vast and varied number of people in a multitude of ways. As our beloved builder Dave said this morning, “This is the change the world needs right now”. Chur Dave. I didn’t think you could have been more my favourite if you tried, but you come up with these gems and continue to do a kick-ass and super slick job and work with us when dozens of other offers come in, and I gotta say, you really remain a top human in my estimation and opinion. Ka pai.

Now, very quickly, I just gotta touch on the down-side to our momentum.  Much to my building annoyance, there’s been people with sticky beaks “getting lost” and poking around our property without any invitation.  Many during full level three lockdown.  Just simply not cricket kids.  I’d go so far as to say the intrusion has left me feeling somewhat unsafe and more than a little frustrated.  So, we will be installing a security gate to curb the enthusiasm of nosey neighbours, and hopefully adding to the safety and seclusion enjoyed by our welcome and honoured guests and many collaborators.  

So that’s it.  That’s today’s blog after another extended sabbatical as I start but seldom finish countless blogs and various content.  We will absolutely be inviting guests, friends and so many more conscious collaborators on site in the months and years ahead.  We are putting in place the infrastructure and resources to host, feed, entertain and educate many honoured guests with food and resources from the farm.  Out table is indeed getting bigger all the time, however, so is our fence.

Thanks for reading.  Get in touch if you want to come up for a visit we’d LOVE to offer you an invitation.